WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — After an 11-year-old boy was arrested for three robberies in the District, many in the neighborhood are left searching for answers.
“It’s mind-blowing,” said Rell Mosley, whose grandmother lives on a street where one of the robberies happened. “When I was 11, I was playing games with my friends and stuff like that. I was doing what kids are supposed to do.”
According to police, the child was arrested Sunday and charged with robbery while armed, assault with a dangerous weapon and robbery fear. The accused crimes happened over a one-week period at three separate locations within northwest DC.
“The younger they are, the more they’re getting attached to guns and stuff like that. The parents don’t give no guidance. They’re not getting guidance from their parents,” said Mosley.
The boy is not the only young person to be arrested for a violent crime recently.
Earlier this month, a 12-year-old boy was charged with six carjackings in Southeast. Last month, a 14-year-old girl was arrested and charged with robbery and armed carjacking.
This week, 15-year-old “Baby K” was arrested. He’s accused of trying to shoot a kid on a school bus in Prince George’s County.
“It’s a steady pattern of younger and younger and younger kids. And the biggest reason for that is the negative influences,” said Derrick Lewis, co-founder of Mute the Violence D.C.
Lewis and his wife Tomeka run the nonprofit and work directly with kids in the District to prevent them from getting involved in violence. They work in schools and at recreation centers to teach conflict resolution, among other things.
The duo said it’s difficult to hear such young children are committing violent crime.
“It’s always heartbreaking to see our young kids, especially at that age to be indulging and engaging in crime,” said Tomeka Watson-Lewis. “Believe it or not, not all of them are bad kids. They’re just being overexposed and under-exposed to the things they should be.”
“We have to interrupt the negative influence, whether it’s videos, whether it’s diss rapping, diss music,” said Lewis. “These are the things they are overly exposed to. They’re overly exposed to negativity.”
Mental health experts agree.
“I think that the overarching issue is their access to technology that promulgates violence,” said Cody Bressette. “I specifically mean social media, online content and violent video games and they have unlimited access to that at this point in time.”
Bressette is with District Psychiatry and Wellness in Alexandria and works predominantly with adolescents and young adults.
Although he said mental illness and violence are not the same issue, he said they can be intertwined.
“When we talk about mental health causing violence in our youth, I think one of the biggest issue that can be mitigated is seeking care for our young people,” he said.
He also encouraged parents to find more positive outlets and influences for their children to help break the isolation that can impact mental health issues.
“Parents need to be looking for ways to get their children involved in extracurricular activities, in group activities, in sports,” he said.